Saturday, July 9, 2011

Why I like Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

Okay, so if you read my last blog entry you may have gotten the impression that I'm going through a rebirth or something. Well, no more so than I have several times since this blog started. Writing the blog has been very revealing to me. Revealing not only on the nature of the RPG industry and Dungeons & Dragons specifically; but also revealing of my own inner feelings and perspectives on why I play these games and enjoy them so much. I don't have all the answers by a stretch, if I did I would probably stop writing and shut down the blog. But the blog is still going strong. Stronger than ever. And it is somehow appealing to the rest of the RPG community to judge by the ever increasing stats. So it's striking a chord with some of you out there. And though it would be presumptuous of me to say what chord that is exactly, given the nature of my posts I could make an educated geuss. And my geuss would be that there are many of you out there that feel as I do. That at times you are confused by the current state of RPGs and that it's difficult at times to find your place. The hobby is so vast and at times diffuse that it is tempting to run to the brightest light still shining: Wizards of the Coast. And I wouldn't fault you for that. I did it myself for a time.

And if you were to find that that light is for you soft and accepting and you feel at home then I would wish you well and be happy for you. It wasn't for me. At least not in any permanent sense. I was still missing something and still set out to discover why and where it was. And as recent blog posts show, that place is and has been my home all these years: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

The problems with that are of course legion, but problems are just plot devices to move the adventure along and I can deal with those. I am dealing with those, even as they arise. One arose for me in my last blog post. The fact that AD&D in its day was an unpopular to 0e players as 4e is to the grognards. The same can be said for every edition that has yet come down the pipe and for a number of the new games written and even for the retro clones. There is always somebody who doesn't like something about edition or clone x, y, or z..

It was a harsh blast to have the curtain drawn back on the Master Gygax and see him in some of his unfavorable light that I alluded to in my last post. I admire the man more than just about any gamer I know. A close second is Dave Arneson, and to think that Gary may have used his game design to treat Dave unfairly also hurt. And it hurt my pride a bit to know that there are those out there who wouldn't consider me old school, because I play the "new" game AD&D and not the true, original "First" edition, 0e. Ah well, such experiences do, as they say (whoever those damnable "they" are), build character.

So I spent yesterday thinking about and surfing for sites dealing with Original and Basic D&D and their clones. And I can say without any rancor and without much doubt, that I don't like them. I mean, don't get me wrong. I really like some of their presentations, and the tone they are setting out to acheive. Lamentations of the Flame Princess just freaking RAWKS! And I still maintain that Matt Finch is a GAWD, and his Swords and Wizardry caters to the genre I love. The "Quick Primer to Old School Gaming" Matt wrote might as well be my bible. And I also found two supplements I have to have now: Matt Finch's Eldritch Wierdness Compilation  and Goblinoid Games' Realms of Crawling Chaos. And both of them are supplements for the basic edition--should I shudder? No, not at all.

No, what I'm talking about not liking is the rule structure. The mechanics of these games are so streamlined as to seem somewhat empty to me. I know that they are designed that way for a reason, they give the DM more power and authority in the game, and more creative freedom. But I personally don't see it. I don't see how the rules in AD&D restrict either of those factors. I know because it is the game I have played more than any other, and I've never felt that way while playing it. So is the accusation that later editions restrict creativity and freedom because they have more rules, true? I haven't found that to be the case. In fact I have found the exact opposite to be the case. Such games free me up to be creative exactly because the tidbit rules are already covered. And when I come upon something that the rules don't seem to cover clearly I can then fill it in. But such cases are much rarer than would obviously come up in what Matt Finch calls "freestyle" games. And that's not bad either. It's okay if that's what you like. I don't like it.

I think my trouble personally may have partly been in thinking, even subconsiously, that there is a one true way out there. Many people get that idea with my rhetoric because I argue my cases so vehemently. What I need to be cautious about is arguing for a preference. There are so many games exactly because there are so many preferences. And in-as-much as preference for games are like preferences for art there's no accounting for taste.

Did Gary create his tighter rule structure to control the game? Maybe, I can't say for sure, and Gary is gone so he can't answer for us. But he also may have been addressing a need that was coming in from the gaming community. So many questions were coming his way, via letter, phone and in person about how to rule on what; about what was right and wrong in the game; about why things worked this way or that; and about how they should rule on this or that issue. What he does in AD&D is provide those answers. He was filling a need as much as creating order. It just seemed that there was a need for some order and uniformity in the game. He provides us with that in AD&D. He is not restricitng us. He tries to tell us that he is not. He stills wants us to create, but his warning about changing the spirit of the system, is not perhaps to keep us from being creative, but from reintroducing chaos into the game order.

Just how true are all these assumptinons? I have no idea. I'm not sure there is a truth. I like AD&D because it provides the structure I need to create and play in the style I like to. I have never felt limited, despite what it might imply. So, can I then turn these same critiques to other games that I might not like? I think not. If I accept the limitations of my own preferences I must accept those of others. If your game works for you, more power to you. I am happy for you and for the hobby. There are many who like to play as I do. Many of them are playing more rules light versions of the game than I prefer to play. That's okay too. I'll just use their creative ideas under my chosen rule set. That's okay isn't it? Of course it is. As long as it's okay with my players it shouldn't stop the most important thing: The Game Must Go On!

And truth be told, as is always the case for me, I have come away with some really good ideas. Not the least of which is a continuation of my open source Hackmaster using the OGL. Second of which is Dark / Weird Fantasy AD&D. A good blogger by the moniker Carnifex points out that once again LotFP is recreating a new tone in basic guise. What if we were to try and create a dark/weird fantasy using the AD&D/Hackmaster mold? I'm still thinking about these ideas and maybe doing some actual brainstorming on them soon. So my once again excursion into the edition wars has not been a loss after all. I brought home some shiny new treasures to play with ... miiiinessss preeecioussssessssssss.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Why Play Rules Lite RPGs -- Defining Old School

I realized something recently. Call me slow on the uptake, but it's not like I didn't know it before. It was just a revelation to me in a way it hadn't been previously. Must have never thought about it before.

At any rate, I have always made the argument that 0e, or the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons, was a work in progress evolving towards AD&D. What a putz I was. That's the exact argument 4e devotees make about their prefered version. Assuming a depracatory tone they spout drivel like "4e has evolved from it's more primitive roots." And of course they are implying that 4e is "better than" all that came before simply because they use the term "evolve". It doesn't seem to phase them that evolution has nothing to do with "better"--but we won't go there now. The point here is that I was making the same mistake the 4e drones were making ... *GACK*!

Yeah see, I was writing recently on the history of the game and talking about 0e play when it hit me. 0e was released in 1974. The AD&D Monster Manual was released in '77, the PHB in '78 and finally the DMG in '79. That means that the bulk of the RPG community was playing the white box for five years.  At that time the original edition was selling more and more copies and TSR could barely produce the copies fast enough to satisfy demand. The 0e supplements were being scarfed up as well and by all measures of success Dungeons & Dragons in White Box form was a hit!

AD&D as a stand alone game couldn't really be played until 1979! That meant that there could have been a major "edition shift sickness" as early as '78 or '79. I couldn't help but wonder how happy people were with 0e and disatisfied they were with the new roll out. But it would be difficult to determine if my suspicions were correct.

So this was my thought a day or two ago. And then just last night I'm reading through the old posts at Grognardia and come upon this. Yep, exactly what I thought. Thanks again to Jim for that post. Not sure how well researched the claim was but I tend to respect Jim's work and opinions. If nothing else it showed I wasn't alone in my assumptions. AD&D was the first step in a long line of revisions that would change the game. ... Wow. Or as they say in the South, smack me with a battered catfish and shut my mouth.

I was a bit stunned. I mean it made sense, but it always hurts a little when it's aimed at your preferred version. Of course, I could assimilate this new information and world view because of something else I realized as I considered why someone would prefer to play 0e. When 0e came out it was definitely a "rules light" game. Though they didn't really consider it that at the time. I mean they started playing with no rules! The game as published had all the rules they needed up to that time. However, what they may or may not have known at the time is that playing the game sort of required that you come up with your own setting. Settings back then were heavily slanted towards the dungeon and often times were nothing but endless mega-dungeons and maybe a small village or town or keep nearby that you could visit between forays. That was the initial setting Dave Arneson had played below Castle Blackmoor and later Gary below Castle Greyhawk.

In fact something that hit me as odd, at least something I had never before realized, was that Gary found it "strange" when he got repeated requests from players that they wanted to play in his campaign world of Greyhawk. This surprised him, as the game sort of assumed DMs would create their own settings and worlds. This goes to show that the idea of a "fixed" campaign world with it's own house rules was not an idea tied to the game at it's inception. This was a new development. I'm not going to say it was a bad one yet, but it was certainly not intended as the way to play the game.

Another de facto assumption was that you would customize the game as you went. There would be situations that would come up not covered in the rules and you would be expected to ajudicate the matter on the spot. You had to be fast and think on your feet as a DM. It was simply part of the job. If you wanted rules on crits or on hit location or on dodging, or on poison manufacture or healing rates you had to come up with those on your own. Now, to some people this may seem like a chore, or even evidence of bad design. But the fact was, people loved this stuff. They were improvising left and right, playing fast and furious on the fly and letting their imaginations run wild. It truly was as Gary would later tout it, "A game for the imagination."

And even though tournaments and small conventions were on the rise in those days, Gary was busy building a standardized model that would facilitate tournament and convention play. Why? Because everyone was playing highly customized and personalized versions of the game. They were taking ideas from books, from other games from Arduin, from Judges Guild, from anything and everything that they liked. It created a wild and crazy time and each GMs table could be in a world vastly different from the one right next door. That was something Gary decided to put a stop to. Now, I don't know for sure why (there were definitely some dark political/business reasons for doing so) but  I have to wonder if Gary wasn't simply trying to regain control of the game. If he produced "THE" version of the game then there could be no argument or dissent or individual manifestations of the game and how to go about playing it. Gary even says as much in the PHB,

"Authoring these works means that, in a way, I have set myself up as final arbiter of fantasy role playing in the minds of the majority of D&D adventurers. Well, so be it; I rationalized. Who better than the individual responsible for it all as the creator of the "Fantasy Supplement" in Chainmail, the progenitor of D&D; and as the first proponent of fantasy gaming and a principal in TSR, the company one thinks of when fantasy games are mentioned, the credit and the blame rests ultimately here. Some last authority must be established for a very good reason."

And he then goes on to talk about the need for uniformity in the game. Now, I've always sort of realized that AD&D was Gary's game. By that I mean it was the game the way he saw it should be played. That he had house ruled and tested this set of rules and decided that this would be the answer to almost all of the common questions that might come up in a fantasy game. Naturally, it could not be exhaustive. But Gary took pains to explain his rationale on items where he chose not to be exhaustive. Questions about combat that were not clearly answered in the rules could be dismissed with the paragraphs in the DMG explaining that D&D combat was abstract. Such an approach gives new insight to many of Gary's at times humorous if short remarks to questioning players.

Once when a young player asked how invisibility worked in relation to the physics of light, Gary simply replied--"It's magic." See, Gary could take such questions as an affront to his summation of the rules and dismiss all other questions out of hand. If this thoughtful player desired an answer in 0e, he could have said -- "You decide". And that might have led to a glorious melding of science and magic in that GMs campaign. But Gary effectively squashed that possibility.

See, there's a difference in approach betwen the two versions. In one, YOU are the master. In the other GARY is the master. sure, Gary says that AD&D can be changed to fit your whims, but he cautions against any changes that go against the spirit of the rules. He had enshrined that spirit in the AD&D bottle and it was not to be released or exchanged with spirits of your own devices. This was a bold departure from what had been previous to '78/'79.

So this got me to thinking. Was 0e really a product in development? I was no longer seeing it as such. I was beginning to see 0e as a free form framework to hang your fantasies upon; and AD&D as a bottleneck of rule manufacture. The game had become necesarily constricted by the infinitude of rules definition portrayed as "the way" to play the game. No wonder people were pissed off.

It also explained something else I never truly understood. Why was the Holmes version so popular? I had always assumed that the set was introduced as a basic entry to the game because Gary's version was too complex for new and younger players to grasp at first. That was the party line anyway. Now I have to wonder if they weren't trying to meet the demands of the 0e crowd by creating something much more like 0e than AD&D was. I mean it never made sense to me why race as class was considered "basic". And it was pretty readily apparent to conusmers that the "Basic" version was not a AD&D starter game. It was a game all to itself. Even today many gamers prefer Basic and Expert play. Now it makes sense to me. Because Basic and Expert play preserve a little more of that early old school 0e feel than AD&D ever did. It wasn't exactly the same, but it was much closer than AD&D was. Some even make the point that Basic was a good "updating" of 0e, and that it streamlined the game and was presented more "cleanly". That Basic is what the game should have been re-released as not AD&D.
In fact, Dave Arneson always loved 0e and preferred a highly loose and story driven game. Even though he parted with Gary on some rules preferences. Dave evidently really like hit locations and criticals. He included them in his Blackmoor supplement. Gary talked these rules down in his combat section in the DMG. I now have to wonder if that wasn't to take another step in ostracizing Dave from the D&D picture. If anyone should have loved hit location tables it would have been Gary. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm just saying. My point is, if Dave, the Grandaddy of RPGs loved 0e and seemed to prefer playing in a rules lite style, what could be really wrong with it?

This realization was making me a bit nervous and sick to my stomach. I was beginning to see AD&D as a power play by Gary and an attempt to standardize the game. To *shudder* take some of the imagination out of it. A chill was beginning to set in. And I haven't quite warmed up yet. Because if this is the case, what really is Old School? How do we define it? It certainly seems like a rules lite approach at least to initial rules presentation is part of the bag. And moreover the focus is not on playing someone's version of the game, but playing a game that allows one to create and imagine adventure in their own mind. I mean Dave's world was semi-steam punk, and Barrier Peaks was his baby from the start. He wasn't limiting himself to just fantasy pulp fiction he was bringing in the Planetary Romances of Burroughs and heck even Vance.

Which brings me naturally to Appendix N in the DMG. Appendix N was given only cursory notice until recently as it has seen a resurgence among old school gamers. What Appendix N does is offer up a small sampling of inspirational literature that were the seeds of creation for fantasy gaming as a hobby. Early pulp fiction of the Swords and Sorcery, Planetary Romance, Adventure, Wierd, Horror, and Fantasy varieties were what inspired the original creators to create a fantasy role playing game. That the game is not about strictly defining a rule set so that it can only be played in one way. But rather to proved the basic framework so that gamers can recreate such adventures for themselves. If Appendix N can be said to be the true source of roleplaying than we have gone far afield indeed. And our straying from the path started with AD&D.

*groan* I gotta go take a tylenol ... no make that three.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Game Design and Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons was born in an environment that was highly gamist. Namely, wargaming. Wargaming being heir to one of the oldest forms of games in the world: Chess and its variants. (For those interested this would likely be the Egyptian Senet, but there are other contenders). The point is, most games are first and foremost designed to be won. And wars, just like games, are waged to be won. Even if the true objective isn't absolute victory on the battlefield. The fact is there is an objective and it isn't just the experience of war. The same stands true for games.

However, Dungeons & Dragons is also deeply rooted in the social experience of storytelling; and more particularly role playing. In this way D&D is connected to theater and drama. Which connects the game to a strongly narrativist tradition. Such storytelling experiences are much older than the games we have evidence of; but the truth of which came first is a mystery hidden farther back in racial memory than the discovery of fire. Stories, however are are not generally told to be won, but to be experienced. Which creates an inherent dilemma for understanding D&D and RPGS generally.

Two apparent dichomoties exist side by side. We are telling a story, but we are also playing a game. Which of course begs the question: Are all games designed to be won? Common belief tends to say they are not; though when asked, we are hard pressed to come up with many (if any) games that fit this apparently obvious definition. Go ahead and come up with one. Don't worry I'll wait ... Undoubtedly you came up with some solo games, like guessing games, or puzzle games but those types of game have a built in competition as well. Player vs game. If you come up with the right answer or the most efficient answer in the case of some puzzle games, you have "won". So solo games are "winnable". Come up with any more? ... I'll wait a little longer ... ... ...

See, you can't do it. All games have goals of one type or another. And goals are designed to be achieved, and in this sense a game can be won. This is as opposed to simple play. Jump rope and twiddling your thumbs, juggling, tumbling, running, skipping, are all types of play. Play is something different from games, though there are often variations of play defined by type. Thus you can "play" a game. It is a type of play, not play in and of itself. Indeed the more structured play becomes, the more like a game it becomes.

Storytelling is not simple play, but one can "play" telling stories. Role playing itself is "playing" a role, but if there is a purpose it can change from being play into something much more serious. If it is mainly for self improvement or self discovery, especially for healing or attaining wholeness it can be said to be therapy; if it's purpose is for performance (designed for entertainment) it is often called drama or theater. If it is more ritual in nature and designed to evoke a spiritual response it can be called religious; and indeed many mystery religions utilize this form of ritual.

But what in the 8th level of Hades is a role playing game? Many supposed definitions of what an RPG really is have been assayed by various game designers. In fact they often include a small blurb or description of "What an RPG is" at the beginning of their game rules. However, reading these explanations leave one more with the idea of how to participate in one, rather than what one actually is.

I would argue that it is a unique blend of the two types of game "play". It takes the telling of free-form, interactive, continually growing stories. Much like the game you would play with your friends where one would start a story, and then pass the story off to you and you would continue by adding your own, personal twists, actions and surprises, then pass it off to the next friend and on and on. By the end you have all undoubtedly laughed lots, groaned more than once, gotten upset and when the story was finished were all hopefully entertained and pleased. (Notice how I have fallen into description of how to play as well--shame on me). Blend that with playing roles within the story and the structure of a rules and you have the rudiments of a role playing game. Vicarious roleplaying, under given rules, involving the creation of a shared story.

You can see how wargaming developed into a roleplaying game in this way. From the rather detached, strategic maneuvering of  units comprising groups of soldiers -- "I move my fifth artillery battery to the Rhone Valley" -- to a novel idea. What if those minis represented one soldier and what if that soldier were me?! Pretty soon a summary of battle tactics becomes a very personal story where an individual can vicariously experience the glory and the horror of war. He can risk the danger of enemy fire, errant explosions, snipers and air assualts to gain victory!

And that gives a clue to something we're still missing. The "goal" of the game. And no, my erstwhile friends, the "goal" is not just everyone having fun. That's great and a game is arguably better when everybody enjoys it, but such is not always the case. Some games were downright brutal for those participating. Just ask the Christians at the Roman Colliseum. And frankly, you can't even call the way some people approach RPG play as having fun. Some people are deadly serious about their role playing; they call it fun like a cop calls busting crooks fun. Sure he enjoys his work, it's what he was designed to do, but fun?

So what is the goal of RPGs? Survival. And if you're lucky, becoming a hero. Or in some form or fashion overcoming obstacles, challenges and seemingly impossible odds. Like it or not your competition is the environment and all the flora, fauna and intelligence that it contains. All of this is of course engineered by, you guessed it--the GM. So the news is:

RPGs ARE Player VS Game Master!

And I'm sick of people arguing that it's not. The game's primary roots are gamist wargames. "Step on up and try your luck against me punk!" In the development of D&D the GM took the army of the enemy, the monsters, the black knights, the evil gods of destiny and became pitted against the army of the players. But, of course, some things had to change from a strict foe vs foe relationship. The GM had to be fair. He had too much power to not have this requirement placed upon him. He also controlled the good gods as well, good NPCs, noble kings and beneficient beasts designed to aide and work on the same side as the PCs (assuming they were on the same side). So a defining rule of the game became that the GM had to be fair minded. Granted absolute power any GM could kill the PCs with a mere thought. That would present no challenge whatsoever. 

No. Masterful GMs realized something. That they weren't designing an encounter, module, adventure, campaign or world to entertain the players, nor to simply kill them, but to challenge them. To present to their players a world in which they could stretch and test themselves to the utmost. A world fraught with danger and mystery and intrigue and death around every corner. But with such perils there existed also a world full of glory to be won, treasure to be gained, fame to be earned and a legacy to build. If they were great enough their names would be remembered for all time as true legends. The GM does players no favors by letting them slip by to some false sense of victory, some half-baked imitation of greatness. No, the GM was out to "fairly" thwart adventurers at every turn. They should demand no less.

If the gamist roots are not present in such a form, what form do they take? Are we to truly say the "goal" of the game is for everyone to have fun? Umm, yeah, duh, but that's the point of every game to some degree. But this isn't just play, for plays sake. If the only goal is for everyone to have fun then all we are doing is playing. We are _not_ just playing. We are playing a _game_. Hence the name of our hobby: Role Playing GAMES.
Some GMs have become blinded by the notion of "cooperative play". Cooperative play, a term initially used by Gary Gygax himself, did not mean for GMs to play on the players' side; or that they should nurse their players along. Being soft on players gains no one anything. cooperative play meant the players cooperate to achieve a mutual goal. The way you do players a favor is by creating a challenge for them. There's all kinds of tripe out there about catering to players demands. What do they want? What kind of game do they want to play? What kind of enemies do they want to fight? Listen, we are _not_ entertainers. We are masters of the game. We engineer reality in the game and more importantly we engineer the challenges designed to allow PCs to become heroes.

And when I say challenge I mean true challenge. Not carefully balanced encounters that your players are designed to win. Enough of this balance BS everyone is talking about. Blessed bells, almost all of the D&D 4e GMs Guide is about creating "balanced encounters" -- that's pure outhouse stink. Balance is another way of saying I've made sure that you can win this as long as the dice go your way and you are not a complete idiot. Armies win, not only because they know how to fight, but also because they know when and who to fight. Running away was noble long before Monty Python. Why do you think so much was made of henchmen and torchbearers and bases of operations and repeated forays deeper and deeper into the dungeon in AD&D? Because that's what smart adventurers did to survive the frickin' thing!! How does D&D 4e solve it? Healing surges. For criminy's sake. Yeah, let's just hit the heal button.

You can begin to see why Gary made the following comment:

"The new D&D is too rule intensive. It's relegated the Dungeon Master to being an entertainer rather than master of the game. It's done away with the archetypes, focused on nothing but combat and character power, lost the group cooperative aspect, bastardized the class-based system, and resembles a comic-book superheroes game more than a fantasy RPG where a player can play any alignment desired, not just lawful good."

The new direction has lost something. And they aren't regaining it with the overly gamist approach of 4e. 4e is heading back to it's wargame roots, which is fine as far as it goes, but it's doing so at the expense of the other half of the game. It's not a role playing game anymore. As much as we can't deny our wargaming inspired gamist roots, we can't simply become a wargame again. But that's actually an aside that is better served in another post. The point here is that RPGs in general are designed to have a goal and that goal implies a healthy competition. That competition is rooted in GM vs player regardless of what modern namby pamby diatribes say about it. Get your soft warm-fuzzies elsewhere--it doesn't belong in RPGs, at least not as a rule.

And though this truth tends to get misunderstood, as if the GM is out to kill all players who enter his game, that is really not the case. What a GM is out to do is design a challenge so intense and difficult that players have to reach deep inside themselves to overcome it. If they can't they don't have the mettle of heroes. The trick for the GM is to do so fairly. He is the world, the monsters and the evil NPCs against which the PCs desire to challenge and test themselves.

Otherwise we are not playing RPGs we are participating in some sort of communal theater that is all about making everyone feel all happy and good about themselves. Let's leave that to the Democrats, okay? (Oooh, ouch, that last one hurt. Probably get some nasty emails about that one. Heh, heh ... Especially since I'm a moderate.) And on the other hand if we go too far on the other direction we are playing nothing but a minis based wargame--which is the direction the present edition of D&D is headed. Might as well play Warhammer 40k or WoW. Now, _that's_ controversial. Bring it on, punk!




Tuesday, July 5, 2011

When Did Dragon go 2e?

Dragon was my first ever magazine subscription back in the day. I think I started with issue 55 or so, but it may have been 58. I had bought a few issues at my FLGS before I begged my parents for a subscription and 58 on are the covers I most definitely recall. Anyway I loved Dragon magazine beyond it simply being my first subscription. More so than my comic books when I started collecting them. I'd give my eye teeth to get both of my collections back, Dragons and my comics. At any rate, I have been meaning to rebuild my collection for some time now. At least the issues that interest me. Which got me to thinking as I was compiling my list of AD&D resources. When exactly did Dragon become 2e-ified? So a quick poke or two round the net turned up the following.

First we know that 2e was released in the late summer/fall of 1989. So checking the issues in '89 we get the following. By issue 142, February of '89 the official 2e preview is included as a lengthy insert. This s the first "taste of what the upcoming revision is going to be like, but the magazine is still predominantly catering to first edition rules. Then in issue 147, July of 1989 articles are turning up that are influenced by 2e or are covering content aimed at 2e.  By issue 148, August 1989 regular columns, like Sage Advice, officially get switched to a 2e focus, Though there are still switched back and forth, I'm assuming to use material previously written.

Which brings up the point that much of what was produced for 2e in the magazine also applied to 1e and vice versa. So though by issue 152 in December the focus predominantly shifted to second edition there was often a generic focus to articles that could apply to either edition. Though when rules are quoted 2e generally becomes the default. This approach was largely taken because of the claim made in the preview mentioned above that 2e was not designed to replace 1e that much could be used interchangeably. While in theory this was true the system took the shift to 2e by 1990 wholesale.

So in looking towards resource for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons I would recommend everything before issue 152 without reserve. But truthfully, one could find benefit in most of the issues after 152 up to the time WoTC took over. This would have been around issue 237. By this time WoTC is at the helm and this issue is a poor mish mash of stuff showing the lack of direction in a time of transition. After this time WoTC shifts the mags focus to proprietary products only and the build up to 3e.